Is it a realistic goal? Can teams truly work together in one accord without conflict?
The answer is Yes. The can. I've worked with many teams that have not experienced conflict.
Those teams are not very effective. They don't make changes. They don't innovate. They don't improve or challenge themselves. They get along because they prioritize group harmony over all other functions of the team.
A better question might be: SHOULD teams work together without conflict?
Teamwork skills in the workplace include engaging in healthy, productive conflict
The benefits of healthy, productive conflict are well documented. When you dare to disagree, you generate new ideas and understanding. You avoid group think. You expand your own and others' perspectives.
When you engage in respectful dialogue that gets a variety of viewpoints on the table, you will more confidence in group decisions. You'll have more buy in to these decisions because members of the team will feel heard and considered.
Teams that use conflict in a way that dignifies each individual opinion and elevates group thinking are more innovative, more satisfied and more productive.
Bring your full self to the team to build teamwork skills in the workplace
At home, we trust people enough to be vulnerable. We are more honest in expressing our feelings and critiquing others. We assert our needs and set boundaries.
At work, when trust among team members is not developed, we tend to hold back. We don't engage in conflict because we're not sure how others will react or what the consequences will be. It's not safe.
At work, we think it's inappropriate to express our feelings. When we don't know people well enough to trust them, expressing our emotions makes us feel too vulnerable. Instead, we mask them or suppress them.
At work, we are reluctant to give our peers feedback even when we could help them. Since trust and connections are not established, we don't feel we have permission to share any feedback that might be construed in a negative way.
When we hold back, we're not offering everything we could contribute to the team. We're offering only our superficial, polite shell.
As long as we keep it superficial, trust won't develop. Connections won't grow. We won't feel safe enough to offer more.
Teamwork skills in the workplace require more than getting along and cooperating with other people
The teams that keep their connections superficial and don't invest in building trust and depth are the teams that end up being the most fractured.
Strong teams have done the work to intentionally build trust. They take time to get acquainted in meaningful ways. They mine for conflict and push each other to become stronger individuals.
Getting along with other people and having healthy conflict are not mutually exclusive. If they were, you'd never argue with and critique and push the people at home.
At home, we care enough about our relationships and the people in our lives to be vulnerable. We build trust by extending it to them every time we express our feelings. We take emotional risks because we are investing in the relationship and the long term.
Your workplace team would benefit if you could do the same for them.
Of course, this is not meant to be construed as permission to act inappropriately. There are workplace norms to consider. Aim for somewhere between never having productive conflict and treating work relationships like personal relationships.
Next Steps for building Teamwork skills in the workplace
Awareness is a great place to start. Interpersonal issues, ego clashes and misperceptions at work can fester if left unattended. If you're looking for ways to get yourself or your team back on track, take action today!
- Determine if there's a trust gap in your team. Inadvertent breaches of trust can cause lasting damage if not acknowledged and repaired.
- Download one of our popular infographics for teams. Decision-making for teams provides a step-by-step approach for collaborative decision-making.
- Book a PFPS facilitator today to facilitate critical team meetings, to speak at your leadership or team events, to conduct customized retreats or workshops to improve your team's effectiveness.
CONNECT2Win is the blog for everyone who works with anyone. Published weekly, the emphasis in 2017 is on the basics of team effectiveness for team leaders and all team members who want to contribute at a higher level.
Deb Calvert is President of People First Productivity Solutions, the company that's been building organizational strength by putting people first since 2006. Deb's fortune 500 background in Human Resources, Sales and Operations gives her a unique perspective on working with cross-functional teams. She is a certified Executive Coach, MBTI practitioner, Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge®, bestselling author, instructional designer and gifted facilitator.